Chris Stratton is a freshman, but it seems it's in name only. He's the subject of a story in today's Daily Journal, and for good reason: He's the best thing MSU's got going on the pitcher's mound.
Stratton, of Tupelo, is 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA and has started the SEC season as the Saturday starter. He's got good stuff, he knows how to located, and he's mature beyond his years. That's the assessment from coach John Cohen.
"He has done a magnificent job for us. We believe he's got a very bright future," Cohen said. "But no coach ever thinks a freshman is going to just step in and be a guy immediately. Because there's so many things they don't encounter in high school with the running game."
There's plenty about Stratton to like. Said Cohen, "The ball just comes out of his hand really easy. It's hard for you to believe that there's going to be arm issues."
Stratton grew up an MSU fan, and that helped Cohen in the recruitment process. Cohen said recruiting a baseball player has become a two-year process, but when he was hired nearly two years ago, he had to jump on guys like Stratton quickly.
"We had about five minutes to figure out who Chris Stratton was and get on him," Cohen said.
The first time Stratton visited Cohen and his assistants, the offices had only chairs, no tables. Pitching coach Butch Thompson hadn't found a house yet.
"They just really talked like they wanted me and really seemed like they had everything together and had a plan," Stratton said. "I just wanted to be a part of the program."
According to Cohen, the fact that his first full recruiting class wound up being so strong – Baseball America ranked it the eighth-best in the country – is "phenomenal."
"I know this sounds arrogant, but I think it's phenomenal when you consider everybody else already has their 10, 15 commitments over a two-year period, and we're trying to get something done in five minutes. The level of freshman arms that we've got, it's a real credit to Butch Thompson."
He added, "If we can continue at this pace and sign this quality of player every single year, we're going to do exactly what my goals have been from the very beginning, and that's play with anybody in the country and have a chance to win at the very highest level. Chris Stratton is a part of that, there's no question about that."